261

Sonny Simmons: Last Man Standing

Nic Jones By

Sign in to view read count
Sonny Simmons: Last Man Standing This is the latest in a series of albums under saxophonist Sonny Simmons' name put out by the Norwegian Jazzaway label; a further instalment in the documentation of an abundantly creative artist, but one who only relatively recently has started to receive the kind of exposure he deserves.

The setting here is a straight-ahead one and Simmons thrives in it. In the company of a rhythm section that does everything a listener might ask of it, and a whole lot more besides, Simmons puts himself across in a program consisting of his original compositions and Tadd Dameron's "Theme For Ernie," the inclusion of which indicates the leader's appreciation of a tradition goes back a whole lot further than a lot of people might imagine.

The same might be said of Simmons' grasp of the musical forms outside of the area he's most readily associated with. "Janet's Mood" is a case in point, not least because its ballad form serves as a vehicle for Simmons' acidic lyricism, happily purged of false sentiment. Pianist Anders Aarum shows here his mastery of a kind of fractured chromaticism that's entirely his own at the same time as he evokes the spirit of prime McCoy Tyner.

On the subject of chromaticism, the leader's phrasing on "Black Gardenias" has about it that compellingly relentless quality that saxophonist John Coltrane might have blazed a trail for, but which has still made for better than worthwhile music ever since. The quartet maps out that territory so effectively here that it can only be called remarkable, especially when in so doing Simmons puts out his knowledge of where the music is his coming from whilst simultaneously putting out his own thoughts. In that balance, perhaps, lies true expression.

"Melodious Theme" underscores the group's empathy in no insignificant fashion, Simmons navigating the stormy sea blown up by his accompanists with customary aplomb and bringing galvanic phrases to bear whilst seemingly straining against the limits of human expression. Having said that, there's an important quality that he shares with saxophonist Fred Anderson—he never resorts to screaming through his horn as a device for making a point, facile or otherwise. The impassioned logic that both men pour out through their music-making is a shared thing of wonder.

"Theme For Ernie" has about it that wistful air that's emblematic of much of Tadd Dameron's music. Simmons emphasises it through the simple expedient of initially singing the melody through his alto saxophone before putting in some potent variations. What one can only assume to have been ample rehearsal time makes a difference here, so cohesive is the group's thinking. If not that, then that indefinable quality that makes for compelling music was in the room at the time, and what's true in this instance is equally true of the whole program.


Track Listing: Call To Order; Ancient Ritual; La Benedicta; Janet's Mood; Black Gardenia; Melodious Theme; Theme For Ernie.

Personnel: Sonny Simmons: alto saxophone; Anders Aarum: piano; Mats Ellertsen: bass; Ole-Thomas Kolberg: drums. Torstein Lofthus: drums (2).

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Jazzaway | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Ten" CD/LP/Track Review Ten
by Jeff Winbush
Published: March 25, 2016
Read "Live At Okuden" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Okuden
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 13, 2016
Read "Dare to Be" CD/LP/Track Review Dare to Be
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: August 8, 2016
Read "Early Wayne: Explorations of Classic Wayne Shorter Compositions" CD/LP/Track Review Early Wayne: Explorations of Classic Wayne Shorter Compositions
by Budd Kopman
Published: August 26, 2016
Read "re: dawn (from far)" CD/LP/Track Review re: dawn (from far)
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 8, 2016
Read "Oscar, with Love" CD/LP/Track Review Oscar, with Love
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 19, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!